Mike Ogawa has countless memories from his 23-year career at the Westminster Police Department — some full-circle moments among them.
There was the teenage girl who ran away and then returned home. Her parents had called the police and Ogawa arrived at their home, making sure to talk to the girl about her actions.
But that wasn’t the last Ogawa would see of her. Years later, Ogawa ran into her again.
“She’s a mom now, with kids, and doing quite well,” he said.
And she still remembered how Ogawa came to the house and spoke to her about running away from home.
“Those are the good ones,” he said of his career full of memories. “It’s just funny how time, it goes by quick. You go into the locker room — half the new officers, they look like college kids — all my buddies, most of them are retired.”
On April 30, Ogawa joined them in retirement. Though it was an unusual experience amid the pandemic and sheltering in place orders.
“It’s just really strange,” he said. “Obviously when I left the front lobby was closed. The building was very scarce, because a lot of people were working from home.”
But Ogawa is no stranger to working during challenging times. He had just completed training at the Vernon Police Department, where he began his law enforcement career, when the Los Angeles riots broke out.
“That was a very unique experience,” he said. “Buildings on fire, smoke, people looting, but I understood people get frustrated.”
He remained at Vernon PD for 6 1/2 years before lateraling over to the Westminster Police Department, where he held many positions throughout the years.
For 19 of his years at the Westminster Police Department, he served as a field training officer (FTO).
“The very first officer I trained here just made sergeant,” Ogawa said. “He got promoted about three months ago. I’m proud of his accomplishment.”
Ogawa enjoyed the mentorship involved in being an FTO.
“You see these young men and women come into law enforcement, they grow into their careers,” he said. “Kind of like your own, so to speak. You train them and then send them off … you try to give them some good advice, and hope you had a little positive influence in their careers.”
He also served as a crisis negotiator for about nine years on West County SWAT.
“You have to be patient, No. 1, and you have to be understanding and able to communicate,” he said. “Stay calm and gain their trust. Even though sometimes you get frustrated, you have to keep your demeanor calm.”
He remembered one call when a man holed himself up in his house with a gun.
“We sent in the robot, and he shot at the robot,” Ogawa said. “Fast-forward, and maybe two to three years later I saw him at the jail. He was like, ‘Hey what’s going on?’ and apologized and said, ‘I was just having a bad day.’’’
Ogawa also worked as an auto theft detective for about three years, and more recently, he served as president of the Westminster Police Officers’ Association (WPOA) for five years. He was involved with numerous community events through the organization, including the fireworks stand, which raises money for the families of fallen officers, and the basketball hoops league that supports local youth through sporting activities. He said he had a lot of support from other members of the police association.
“It was fun and challenging,” he said of his time as WPOA president. “You get a chance to meet a lot of different people within the community. I enjoyed it.”
Also, for the past four years, Ogawa worked as background investigator for the agency. He was involved with the hiring of most of the positions at the Westminster Police Department — from officers and dispatchers to police aides and volunteers.
“The biggest thing we look for is honesty and integrity for any position within the police department,” he said.
He looks back on his career with fondness, but he’s also looking forward to some quiet time — possibly involving learning to play golf.
“It’s been a great career. It’s been fun,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of good people along the way at work, in the community and in the streets. If you blink, it goes by quick, so enjoy the ride.”